Murderball Movie Review
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Murderball was released in the year 2005 and portrays wheelchair rugby. The introduction of the United States rugby team consisting of young paraplegic men and their rival team in Canada has left the viewers with mixed feelings. The movie further depicts the manner in which the team plays rugby by using minimal protection. Furthermore, the rules of rugby are slightly modified to suit the limitations of the paraplegic men. The movie further documents the lives of the team members by discussing rugby from their perspective, their lives and the manner in which they became wheelchair bound while documenting their path to participate in the Paralympic Games held in the year 2004 in Athens, Greece.
Disability model in Murderball
Disability theories over the years have undergone several transformations. However, the film depicts the medical framework as well as the social model on disability. The medical model emphasized on disability ideologies and individualized explanations that has gradually shifted to accommodate social definitions of disability placing greater accountability on displaying disability in the mainstream society. The film also discusses individual impairment experiences and thereby uses the merits of the medical disability framework that maintains that the identification of individual impairment experiences helps to establish close relationship between activism and scholarship in social disability studies (Shakespeare & Watson, 2002).
The social model on disability focusses on the oppression and barriers faced by disabled individuals. The film has highly portrayed on the social model of disability by depicting the hindrances, stereotypes and the oppression that the paraplegic rugby team had gone through while portraying their past lives (Miles, 2011).
Gender and sexual representations in Murderball
Murderball depicts representations of sexuality and gender. According to Robert McRuer, such movies depict “proper sexuality” that establishes a stable image of disability in an otherwise unstable world (Chivers & Marcotic, 2010). The movie furthermore depicts the necessity of hegemonic masculinity to exist in sports so as to uplift the lives of male disabled athletes. Furthermore the film highlights Joe’s relationship with his wife Patti that depicts of gender based stereotype. Patti is used to the aggressive and dominating behaviour of Joe that depicts male supremacy or in other words the superiority of male in a patriarchal societal structure. The film further depicts women to take submissive roles like those of sex objects and caregivers. In another instance of misogyny the behaviour of Joe towards the Team USA coach contextualizes the stereotyped bias that males have for women. Moreover, the only women to display authority in this movie is the coach of Team USA. The film furthermore does not mention the participation of disabled women in sports including wheelchair rugby. Throughout, Murderball depicts gender inequality by devaluing the role of women and highlighting male dominance thereby emphasizing masculinity to be one of the primary themes.
Societal response towards disabled individuals
The film depicts a societal setting of male dominance and the existence of a patriarchal society. The film provides food for thought to its viewers by presenting representation issues and displaying gender bias. The film furthermore displays the personal, social and cultural underpinnings faced by disabled men and the roles of women to being submissive and provide care to the disabled men. The societal setting is that of respecting disability of males in an otherwise normal world. The film completely ignores representation of disabled women in sports and in the overall society (Coakley, 2008). The film furthermore shows supportive family and friendly be highlighting women to take on roles of caregivers as depicted by that of mother, wife, therapists and girlfriend. The societal stand of women to assume supportive roles to disabled men is the respect of male dominance and support of disabled men to function normally despite being disabled in the societal setting of male authority.
The film targets the general audience with special focus on disabled human beings. However, it does little to target disabled females. The film consistently shows males to take on authoritative roles despite being disabled and thereby targets the audience to respect disabled males. It also sends a message to disabled individuals to focus on their career and win a place in the society. The film tries to reach out to the educated masses and conveys the message to treat disabled men equally. It also highlights, that given an opportunity, these people can lead normal lives and come out of the depression. The film furthermore highlights instances of discrimination on the basis of disability especially while it harps on the past experiences of the players.
Final thoughts on Murderball
The documentary on quadriplegic rugby has been personalized by showing past instances from the player’s lives. It focussed on certain societal vices like discrimination towards disabled and the manner in which these disabled athletes battled all odds to attain success by overcoming their disability to lead a normal life. At the same time, the video portrayed women to play the main roles of caregivers thereby undermining their position in the society. The documentary did little to focus on the lives of disabled women and the manner in which such women battled societal odds to lead a normal life. The overall film was apt and crisp despite portraying male dominance all through.
Chivers, S. & Markotic, N. (2010). The Problem Body: Projecting Disability on Film. The Ohio State University Press, USA.
Coakley, J. (2008). Murderball (2005). Directed by Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam
Shapiro; DVD (accompanied by special features); ThinkFilm. 85 min. Reviews: Film, Media, and Museum, 335 – 337.
Miles, M. (2011). The ‘Social Model of Disability’ met a narrative of (in)credulity: a review. Disability, CBR and Inclusive Development, 22(1), 5 – 15.
Shakespeare, T. & Watson, N. (2002). The social model of disability: an outdated ideology? Research in Social Science and Disability, 2, 9 – 28.
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